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I first read about the The DIY Ring Flash Kit on the Strobist blog. And I was intrigued by the possibility of having this portable modifier for producing even light for less than $30.

As part of the bargain, the user does have to do some assembly, as demonstrated on the The DIY Lighting Kits site. But it seems simple enough. And once it's finished, you can use it on a variety of flashes including the Nikon SB28, SB80dx, SB800, SB26 and Canon 430EX, 580EXII.

If you've ever wanted to experiment with ring flash, this might be the ticket for you.

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"Don't Move!"

When Theresa got to the top of the bluff, I said, "Don't move!" because I saw this shot instantly. Even for simple day hikes in my neighborhood, I always pack a camera. (Yes, this spot is walking distance from my front door.) I had the Olympus XZ-1in my pocket this day.

Spring in Sonoma County

It was quite bright during the hike. I had my sunglasses on, which makes it even harder to compose images on the camera's LCD. Fortunately, I had the VF-2 electronic viewfinder on the XZ-1. This improved my odds of getting a good composition.

I sent the photo to Theresa at work the next day. She had it up on her computer screen when a coworker stopped by. "What a great shot!" Then another coworker viewed it, and another after that. It's now Theresa's desktop wallpaper, and she says it brings that good feeling from the hike to her hectic office environment.

I know I've said it a million times, but take your camera with you when you walk out the door. You might capture a moment that makes someone else's day too.

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We need the light for taking our pictures, but it can really work against us when it's time to review them on the camera's LCD. Hoodman to the rescue with the HoodLoupe 3.0 Professional ($79.99).

Hoodman HoodLoupe 3.0 Professional Hoodman HoodLoupe 3.0 Professional comes with a quick release neck strap and case with belt loop. Works on cameras with 3" LCD screens and smaller.

I must admit, I felt a bit like a big time Hollywood director when working with the HoodLoupe around my neck. It has a +/- 3 diopter adjustment for precision viewing. The hard rubber hood feels durable, yet won't scratch the back of your camera. I've used it on my Canon DSLRs, Olympus PENs, and even the new Olympus XZ-1. Here's a brief into video about it.

If you want to use the HoodLoupe for LiveView video recording, there are accessories for attaching to your camera.

You can order the Hoodman HoodLoupe 3.0 Profession from the good folks at Hunt's Photo & Video.

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I've used Canon flashes for a number of years, but none of them have delighted me like the new Speedlite 320EX($275 US). It's a truly useful accessory for the new breed of DSLRs, specifically, the Canon 7D, 60D, and T3i.

canon_320ex_front.jpg Canon 320EX. Notice the LED light in the body.

Feature Highlights

This 1.1 pound strobe fits easily in nearly any camera bag, yet includes:

  • Bounce and swivel head
  • LED light that can be used for video recording, as a modeling light, or just to help with focusing
  • Wireless capability with 4 channels
  • 24mm full-frame equivalent coverage at the wide end with maximum guide no. 79 ft./24m at ISO 100; and at the tele end, 50mm full-frame equivalent, max. guide no. 105 ft./32m at ISO 100
  • Remote release button to fire camera from a distance
  • Easy to operate switches and buttons
  • Up to 4 hours continuous light from LED from a set of fully charged 4 AA batteries

canon_320ex_rear.jpg No LCD on this flash. Easy to operate buttons and switches instead.

Buttons and Switches

I don't know if it was a conscious decision on Canon's behalf, or just that an LCD wouldn't fit in the limited real estate of the 320EX, but all of the controls are handled by buttons and switches on the flash itself, or via the menu on the camera. I love this!

If you're going to work wirelessly, then put the 320EX in Slave mode with the switch in the lower left. Most of the time you'll be working in Group A, Channel 1, but if you need to change those, then use the two switches above the On/Off. If you want to use the LED light, move from Auto to Manual with the switch in the lower right, then press the LED Light button. The remote trigger is a button on the side of the flash above the battery compartment. If you want to move the zoom head out to Tele position, just pull it. The TELE light on the back of the flash will illuminate to let you know.

canon320ex_side.jpg Remote flash trigger button is located above the battery compartment.

Remote Trigger

You can fire you camera remotely with the 320EX. Basically this works with any Canon that accepts the RC-1 remote controller, which is many of them. Set the camera to Self Timer in the Drive mode, then it's ready to accept commands from the 320EX. There's a 2-second delay that allows for last minute adjustments.

This is handy for off-camera flash work. You could use the LCD as a modeling light to position the 320EX just where you want it. Then use the remote trigger to take the shot. On the 60D or T3i, you could have the Vari-Angle LCD turned around so you can see the image from the remote position to decide if you need to make further adjustments. Slick!

canon320ex_led.jpg The LED throws a decent circle of light. The distance here is 28" from the wall. As I stepped back, the circle became larger, but not as bright.

LED Light

The LED light is bright enough for work within 8 feet. When you're close to the subject, the diameter of the circle is tighter, as shown in the illustration above. As you move back the diameter grows larger. This addition fits perfectly with the direction our DSLRs are going. Now, while recording video and stills together, we have a flash that can accommodate both.

Bottom Line

I think the Canon Speedlite 320EX might motivate photographers to consider off-camera flash and creative lighting more often. It's so compact that there isn't really an excuse not to bring it. Plus, it performs triple duty because it is a terrific hot shoe/wireless flash, includes an LED light for video and modeling, and serves as a remote trigger.

Highly recommended, especially for Canon 7D, 60D, and T3i users. Available for about $275from Amazon. Kit includes mini stand and case.

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Adobe released a handful of demonstration apps for the iPad to show off their new set of developer tools. I downloaded Adobe Nav for Photoshop ($1.99 in the App Store) and connected it to Photoshop CS5 12.0.4 on my MacBook Air.

Adobe Nav for Photoshop on the iPad Browse Mode on the iPad

You have two basic modes to work with: Tools, which gives you access to your Photoshop tools on the iPad, and Browse mode that allows you to view all of the images you currently have open in CS5. If you double-tap on an image, you're presented with some basic metadata about it. Double-tap again and you return to the photo. There are three basic viewing sizes: thumbnail, medium image (shown in this illustration), and full screen.

The tools are fun, but you still need to operate them on the computer. I did like hitting the Tab key to hide the tools on my Mac, allowing me a cleaner view of the image, then switching among the tools on the iPad. You can organize the tools on the iPad any way you want, which could turn out to be one of the most alluring features of this app. One of my favorirte Nav functions is the Screen Mode that allows me to switch to full screen mode on the Mac with just a tap on the iPad. Actual Pixels is pretty good too.

But I think the real fun is being able to walk over to a coworker's desk with iPad in hand and discuss an image or two that you have open in Photoshop back at your desk. It's another bit of freedom that isn't going to change the world, but is nonetheless enjoyable.

What Adobe hopes will happen is that developers will start using the SDK to create new iPad apps that no one had previously imagined. In the meantime, Adobe Nav is a tiny peek into the future.

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I have new way to share the best of your photo contributions with our virtual camera club... and the world. We now have the TDS Member Photo of the Day on The Digital Story Facebook Fan page. Those images are curated from our vast collection on The Digital Story Public Group on Flickr (which has over 1,700 members and 17,000 images.) In this week's podcast, I talk about the role our Facebook page will play in our overall virtual camera club, and how you can particiapte (or at least, just enjoy).

I've also posted more details about this in the article, Why You'll Like TDS on Facebook. Please stop by, "Like," and start enjoying great imagery from our virtual camera club members.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (29 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Shades of Green is the May 2011 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is May 31, 2011.

TDS Fall 2011 Photography Workshop

We're making plans now for the Fall 2011 TDS Photography Workshop. If you want your name on the reserve list, just drop me a line.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

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Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.

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There are some good tablet discussions online about iPad 2 vs Android. My bottom line recommendation is, if you're using a Mac or an iPhone, then go with iPad 2 for your tablet. Those not committed to either iOS or Android have some research to do. To help you get started, I found a good article on cameradojo, My Take on Android Tablets vs iPad. You won't get a definitive answer, but you will have lots of good information to think about.

If you want a definitive answer, then go iPad 2.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

The Digital Story on Facebook

We now have The Digital Story on Facebook, and I think you're going to like it. The heart of this new site is your imagery. And I have lots of amazing stuff to share.

The Back Story

A few years ago, I wanted a place to bring together the images from TDS members. We created the TDS Public Group on Flickr. At the moment, we have more than 1,700 members sharing a catalog of 17,000 photos -- many of them outstanding.

The next step was to find a way to share these pictures with the entire TDS audience. So we created the Member Gallery on the site. It refreshes daily, and is an easy way to see what your fellow photogs are up to.

But there seemed to be a missing element in all of this. And for me, that was the ability to highlight the most interesting work and have it appear before our audience. That's when the TDS Member Photo of the Day idea came to me.

How It Works

The first part works as it always has. If you want to contribute photos to the TDS Public Group, become a member of Flickr and join our community there. I've published instructions on how to do this, although after re-reading them, I do need to make some updates to that post.

To enjoy the TDS Member Photo of the Day, whether you're a contributor or not, just "Like" our new Facebook Fan Page. The Like button is at the top of the page. I'll post a Member Photo of the Day five times a week, highlighting some great photography.

If you simply want to view these great images, sit back and they will appear in your News Feed five times a week. If you want to be featured, join our Flickr community and start sharing your work.

In Podcast 273, I go into more details about this project, and some of the other features. You might want to tune in.

I'm so excited about this. And I have the wonderful job of going through these images and making the selections.

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"While I Wait" - Grab Shot 214

"While I Wait" Grab Shot 214

"While I wait for the train to pass," writes Conrado Gonzalez, "why not capture a grab shot?"

What a great argument for having your camera with you. Conrado captured this beautiful image with his Nikon D40, then processed the photo in Lightroom 3.4. (Click on image to get its full impact!) Sometimes those short delays work in our favor...

This is our 214th Grab Shot! Wow. If you want to review the collection that began back in 2006, go to our Grab Shots page.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. We'll try to get it published for you on The Digital Story.

And you can view more images from our virtual camera club in the Member Photo Gallery.

The Digital Story Podcast App is the best way to stream or download weekly TDS podcast episodes. No more syncing your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or even your Android phone just to get a podcast. And the best part is, The Digital Story Podcast App is your way to help support this show. Download it today!

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I've mounted a Pinwide wide angle pinhole cap on my Olympus E-PL1 micro four thirds camera and have been shooting crazy shots. The first thing I noticed about my behavior when I'm using the Pinwide is that all bets are off. It's like it challenges you to be creative.

Soccer Net

Since we are dealing with a pinhole for our light transmission to the sensor, I found myself using ISO 1600 to get decent handheld shutter speeds. In broad daylight, most of my shots were between 1/15 and 1/60th of a second. You get some image noise at ISO 1600 with the E-PL1, and that seemed to contribute to the overall texture of the shot.

One of the reasons I like using Olympus bodies for this type of work is that the stabilization is built into the body, not the lens. So I still have IS with a pinhole cap.

Mom's Apple Pie

One of the attributes that jumps out at you when looking at these images, is the natural vignetting that comes with pinhole photography. Plus there's substantial depth of field, and, for lack of a better way of saying it, just pure color. It's much easier to understand pinhole photography by looking at it, rather than trying to explain it.

Sr. Marlene Dr.

As for the Pinwide cap itself, I found it well designed and high quality. It snaps securely into place on the camera and seems quite durable. There's a tiny glass element on the backside of the adapter that protects your sensor from dust entering through the pinhole. So you can leave it on the camera without worry. When it's time to put it away, it includes a cute little tin for storage that reads, "Designed in Chicago, manufactured in the USA."

During the shooting process, I found it easier to compose the image with the accessory Olympus VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder rather than on the LCD, especially in bright light.

You can order the Pinwide directly from the Wanderlust site for $39.99. It's a great way to bring out the creative artist in you.

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